An introduction to Google Plus!

Have you heard about Google Plus?

Google Plus is a new Social Networking tool that the engineers at Google have put together!  It was designed from the ground up to be more secure, private, and easy to use and share your stuff through!  While it has been in “Invite-Only” mode for the last 2 months, they just opened it up for anyone and everyone to sign up. ( to sign up)

Why should you check out a new social network?  Whats wrong with the ones you use now? (Facebook / Twitter) Well, Google Plus (or G+) is meant to keep your private info, well, private!  You have to actively choose to share your information or posts.  You can connect with lots and lots of people *(like on twitter), but they don’t automatically get access to your private posts or photos that you share only with friends and family.  It is also easily intergrated into other google services, like Gmail, or Gdocs, or Gcalendar.  So, if you are already a Google user, than Google Plus will fit right in.  If you are interested, I highly recommend you check out this short video introduction I made to see how it basically works and how you can start building your circles!


Socialnomics – Social Media ain’t a fad!

Below is a Youtube video based on an amazing book that contextualizes a lot of the recent developments in Social Media and how we are all using it. I definitely had to pick my jaw up off my desk with some of these astronomical statistics. This video was made by Erik Qualman who also wrote the book Socialnomics.  This book explores the development of Social Media, its explosive growth, the profound changes it is bringing and how best to leverage these new technologies.

Some of the most amazing statistics from this video that immediately stuck out to me are:

  • 96% of all Millennials have joined a social network
  • If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s 3rd largest (Behind China and India)
  • 80% of companies use Social Media for recruiting new employees
  • The fastest growing segment on Facebook is 55-65 year old Females.
  • Youtube is now the world’s 2nd largest search engine (after google)

This video is high energy and very enlightening to whats happening all around us.  Sometimes it can be hard to see the forest for the trees, but this video really helps me understand that magnitude of this change and how immense and powerful our new networks, communications and tools are!  I hope that you enjoy this video as well!

I think this video and book really illustrate how important it is for educators to not only acknowledge the important role Social Media plays in our lives and our student’s lives, but how important it is to teach Social Media etiquette, safety and to role model appropriate and balanced Social media behaviours! We all play a role in helping each other navigate these new tools and virtual spaces!

Social Media: A Presentation for Educators

Tomorrow, Friday, Feb 18th is a District Professional Development Day here in Vancouver, BC.  The District team has put together a great day titled “Supporting Learning Through Technology“.  There are workshops on all kinds of interesting tools, strategies, support groups and ways to innovate and utilize technology in your classroom.

I will be giving a workshop tomorrow afternoon titled: “Social Media: How to get Started” and will be in the ‘Barn’ @ John Oliver Secondary, Room 209 from 12pm to 1.15pm.  In this workshop, I hope to really show why using Social Media as a part of your classroom and learning environment can be a simple and easy way to extend your classroom, while teaching and demonstrating appropriate usage of Social Media tools.

The presentation I will be using is available here:

This presentation will cover the basics of Why use Social Media?  Why Now?  How can I safely use these tools with my students?  I will also be covering best practices when using tools like Facebook, Twitter and WordPress.  I hope that this presentation will also be ‘hands-on’ and will allow educators to try some of these tools out where they can ask questions, explore without fear, and share possible ideas about how to implement.

#askshakespeare – A Panel of Experts brought to your classroom

Today’s post is about an “ah-ha” moment I had yesterday.  I have been using twitter for just about 2 years now, and only really using twitter for about the last 6 months professionally.  Yesterday, I saw a tweet annoucing “Ask Shakespearian Experts anything you want using the #askshakespeare hashtag today only!”.  I thought, WOW!  What a wonderful way to use Twitter to extend your classroom and learning opportunities out into the world.   Here is how the event was described on Blogging Shakespeare:

“On 2, February 2011 Shakespeare organisations, enthusiasts, scholars and professionals worldwide joined us on the AskShakespeare panel through their twitter accounts and answered all the questions that were posted on the #askshakespeare.”

This simple use of the Twitter platform, a hashtag to organize the questions (#askshakespeare), and the volunteer time of these experts, scholars and professionals created a virtual ‘panel’ that could be accessed by any teacher, student, enthusiast or citizen to learn more about the Bard.  I asked two seperate questions:

Within minutes, I had 6 responses from 3 different experts, each weighing in on the questions regarding Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathway, and also whether today’s copyright laws would allow a writer and playwright such as Shakespeare to borrow and adapt from many sources to produce a new, yet derivative, product. 

So, overall, this was an opportunity for me to really see how Twitter and Social Media can be used in a very effective way to enhance your educational environment, whether it is face to face in a classroom, or online, via distance, you can implement simple and easy tools to bring experts and knowledge into your classroom!  You can find and access experts from around the globe, interact with them and use their knowledge and expertise to help your own students. 

My top 6 reasons why I love and use Social Media!

Today I wanted to share with the readers of this blog my top 6 reasons why I am so pleased with social media as a tool for Educators!  I have been teaching now for over 7 years, and 6 of these have been teaching part-time as an “online” or distance educator.  Throughout these formative years, I have struggled, as all new teachers do, with figuring out what Educating is all about.  I have sought like-minded Educators in my district, attended many Professional Development workshops, and collaborated with my peers at the school level.  This has allowed me to grow and develop as an educator, which I value very much.  The one concern I had over these developing years was how difficult or how time consuming this was.  Collaboration happens just a couple of times through the year, Professional Development only offered 5 days in a school year. Conferences were typically expensive, far away and did not cover the curriculum I taught my students.

With the development of Social Media, especially Twitter, I have had more Professional Development in the last 6 months than the last 6 years!  I have ‘met’ more like-minded Educators, worked collaboratively with people from all over North America, have been able to virtually “attend” conferences that were far away through backchannels and have expanded my understanding and knowledge greatly!  How did I do this?  By spending about 30 mins a day on twitter, reading the stream, clicking interesting links and by finding other like-minded Educators to ‘follow’.  

I have found new ideas and strategies to try.  I have been inspired by what others have been able to achieve.  I have been helped by people I’ve never met in person, but have communicated with often.  So, what are my top 6 reasons why I use Social Media?

  • Equality – Twitter and other Social Media is very flat.  You can communicate, follow, and converse with anyone else on the medium.  This has allowed me to dialogue with Trustees, Superintendents, CIO’s, Politicians, and other important people that make up my ‘community’.
  • Collaboration – Got a good idea?  Share it and see who else wants to contribute and have access to the final product!  Twitter and other social media has allowed me to find fellow online English educators, as well as others to share challenges, pitfalls, success, and dreams.  It becomes easy to network and work together with other web 2.0 tools.
  • Discussion and Debate – The weekly #edchat discussions and debates on twitter allow Educators and anyone else interested to talk about issues we all face.  What works?  What doesn’t?  What can you do to help your school?  What should districts do to support their educators? Each week there is a new topic to debate and discuss with hundreds of participants and points of view.
  • Better than Expensive Conferences – There has been a recent trend of conferences for educators becoming very expensive.  Coupled with travel and accommodations, Educators are quickly priced out of attending such conferences.  Social Media lets me attend pro-d EVERY SINGLE DAY.  You never know what you’re going to learn when you jump on twitter for 10 minutes in the morning!
  • International Community – Social Media can help “tear down that wall” as Ronald Regan once said during the Cold War.  My community of Educators is truly international, with many voices coming from all over North and South America, Europe, Australia and other countries.  With developments in real-time translation from Google Translate, this is going to grow and expand, as it won’t be hindered with language difficulties any longer!  Star trek technology? Nope, its here today.
  • Local Community – Twitter and other Social Media tools have allowed me to explore and connect with other Educators located right in my backyard!  Apart from the teachers at my local school, it was difficult to find other Educators in my district who are working on really cool ideas and strategies.  Through twitter I am able to connect with educators from around Vancouver, the Lower Mainland, and the Province, allowing me to get a sense of what’s happening in lots of other districts.  Together, we can all ‘rise the tide’ of BC Education!

I hope my exploration of the reasons why I love Social Media so much as an Educator and a Professional have helped you understand why it’s important to try these new tools.  Just like the telegraph, the telephone, the television and other important technological developments have changed the way we interconnect, these tools are paradigm shifting, truly creating a flat, fair and fun landscape for 21st Century Educators!

Got another reason why Social Media is good?  Participate in the discussion by adding your thoughts below!

Putting Social Media in its “place”

There was a very interesting interview on The Colbert Report on Monday, Jan 17th with MIT Professor Sherry Turkle on Social Media and how we should consider forming some basic guidelines on when to use Social Media and when to put the phone/computer away and direct all your attention on the person or task at hand.   Please watch this interview here:
(Be sure to select the Jan 17th Episode)
Now, the premise of the interview was to explore issues from Sherry’s new book, “Alone Together: Why we expect more from Technology and less from each other“.  Stephen Colbert was quick to try and “nail” his guest, using his character and clever wit to catch this author out.  Sherry Turkle made many great points in the interview about how the rise of Social Media has invaded personal spaces (checking an iPhone at a funeral?) and that the frequency and simplicity of Social Media has ‘dumbed down’ or reduced our interaction to tiny bites, rather than whole conversations.

There are many interesting ways to look at this, and Stephen Colbert did challenge Sherry Turkle on many assumptions, one good point he made was that many small interactions can be as good as one medium interaction, or no interaction at all.  We do get to know each other through these ‘micro-interactions’ on social media spaces.  It does, however, take longer to end up at the same space we might get to a lot sooner through focused conversation.  This sparked excellent dialogue and discussion between Sherry and Stephen, which ultimately proved Sherry’s point!  The debate and detailed discussion they were able to have would have been very difficult over Twitter, limited to only 140 characters!

So, what can we take away from this?  Well I think its important to remember to put that smartphone away when you have someone or something in front of you that wishes to engage, or needs to get done!  Just because you can jump online and tweet about something, does not mean it can’t wait 20 mins until you have the moment to step away from the conversation or activity you are currently involved in.

We should contine using Social Media, this is certain.  We just need to learn new protocols on when to fully immerse and when it is ok to “check out” from whats in front of us, and into our phones/computers/social networks.  We also need to accept that we cannot do it all at the same time!  Multi-tasking may sound nice, but it’s really only dividing up a small amount of attention to multiple things, where everything and everyone suffers a little bit.  Lets not be “Alone Together” like Sherry Turkle talks about.  Lets engage with each other offline when we are in each other’s presence.  Lets engage online when we are away from each other!  Give the people around you the attention they give you, and we will all do allright.

Social Media lets you share what you learned!

Social Media lets you share what you know/want to know/learned (KWL)  with a large and varied audience! 

The KWL Chart, a main-stay in my classes for Problem Based Learning, helps your students gather what they already know about the topic, what they want to know, and finally, after they are done, they update the chart with what they learned.  Now, this is an excellent activity to help students organize their thinking and learning, and gets them to excercise some meta-congnition, exploring their understanding of the learning process.

What Social Media brings to this activity is the ability to go one step further and to share with their friends, family, peers and others what they learned!  By tweeting a link to an excellent resource they found and was instrumental to their understanding, they are sharing the best of the best.  By starting a facebook conversation about a topic explored in class, they are extending the classroom to be more meaningful and accessible, allowing more students to participate.  By creating a blog about their own experiences and learning development, they are helping students like themselves understand the learning process and what it takes to master something new.

Social Media allows our students to share their work outside of the classroom and school walls, allowing the greater community to be a part of the education of a child.  The KWL chart is very individual, but if we adapt it to include SHARING so that it is now a KWLS chart, they can document which Social Media tools they plan on using to publish and distribute their new knowledge and learning development, and why they are choosing that tool.  This can extend the teaching tool to be even more useful and collaborative!

It’s not just what you know, how you learned it, or what you learned, but how you plan on sharing it with your social community using Social Media!

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